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March 24, 2014
2014 NCAA Division I women's basketball championship
First Round · News Conference Day
Bryce Jordan Center · University Park, Pa.
Monday, March 24
NEWS CONFERENCE QUOTES - Florida
Head Coach Amanda Butler
Q: What about Penn State do you think has changed between November and now?
A: I don't know that there have been a lot of significant changes. I have great respect for Coquese [Washington] when there's a great coach with a great program and great players, especially a senior-led team, inevitably there's going to be growth and improvement and changes that make them a better unit throughout the year. Playing in a fantastic league like the Big Ten, you're going to find things out about yourself that help you become a better team. I think all those things have happened with them. Kayla [Lewis] mentioned [Talia] East. [Maggie] Lucas gets so much well-deserved attention that there are so many other players like her and [Ariel] Edwards who have evolved into these big roles that they didn't have a year ago. That's one of the things that makes them one of the best teams in the country. They have good balance. You make a bad mistake as a team if you say `we can stop Lucas' because you probably can't stop Lucas. Second of all, there are a lot of talented players on that squad.
Q: Do you take anything from the Wichita State game and use some of the tactics they did or do you focus on the Gators and what you guys can do against Penn State?
A: It's a mix of both of those things. Certainly, we're going to take any information we can get from anywhere to try and increase our chances. I thought Wichita State had a great game plan and they played with a lot of spirit and energy. They had a great strategy and they gave themselves a chance to win. There are a lot of things we can watch and maybe see some similarities between our team and their team. But, I think this time of year, especially when you're playing the second game and you've got one day of practice and a little time to squeeze in some film sessions, it's a lot of mental preparation. It's all on you and what you do. Hopefully, you can pick up a few things here and there. That was a great game for Penn State's fans and Wichita State has a lot to be proud of, as well. I wish I could have watched more of it, but I was a lot more concerned with Dayton.
Q: There's not always a direct comparison to be made, but is there anything you see from Penn State that you could compare to an SEC team? And how much do you use that with your players as a point of reference?
A: I think Kayla [Lewis] put it really well. Their size is imposing. A lot of times when you talk about size you think about their inside game, but they've got great size on the perimeter. I think some of the teams that she mentioned like South Carolina, Auburn, and Tennessee are teams that have that and we're used to facing it. That's a great confidence builder from a mental preparation standpoint. But it's going to feel differently to go out there and actually play Penn State. Making that height comparison and saying `Hey, they're big' really sells them short. They're a lot more than big. They've got good athleticism on the perimeter, led by a very capable, quick, and dynamic point guard. There are a lot of teams that we can draw some parts of game plans over the past two months and trigger memories for our kids and say `Remember when we did this against South Carolina?' or `Remember when we practiced this in our bye week before we played Georgia?' Those kinds of things will be important but you have to make them important when you actually hit the court. Otherwise it's just information.
Q: Do you think this is a matchup between speed and size?
A: No. I think that's part of it, but I know it's a lot more than that. I just know that when you get to this point in the season and you're playing a team like Penn State at Penn State with so many seniors, emotion and other intangibles are going to be a big part of what goes on. Will speed versus size be an issue? I think in some matchups it will, but Penn State has speed. They're not slow. In some instances, we have size on our side and it's not by being bigger but by being smaller. Like Carlie [Needles] said, that's one of the things we try to use to our advantage is making people uncomfortable with our size. A lot of people look at it as being a lack of size but we dwell on our size as being a positive.
Q: How much of this game will come down to defensive play?
A: I think that's game by game. Last night we put together a segment of really good offense and I think it bled over into us playing some really good defense - and sometimes it's hard to tell which comes first. I think it really depends on each team and what matters most to them and what they're going to take the most pride in. It's obviously going to come down to one stop, but when it comes down to one stop that also is one opportunity to score for another team. So it's really hard to say it's just size or just speed or just defense. I think when you've got two really talented squads with a great deal of desire and passion to advance, it's going to be a combination of a lot of different factors.
Q: There has been a lot of history this year with this team. When you have the opportunity to go to the Sweet 16, how much have you talked about that with your players and how much do you want that on their minds?
A: We haven't really talked about that specifically. They're a smart bunch - they know what's at stake. You don't have to point out those kinds of obvious things. There's not any reason to try to generate any more emotion that's already there. One of the things that's a great team strength of ours is our leadership. You can listen to these two [Kayla Lewis & Carlie Needles] speak who are our leaders, and we have two senior leaders as well. I totally trust the conversations that are going on when the coaches aren't around. I also trust that we don't have to come to the film room or the locker room and generate excitement about anything right now. They are handling that because they're excited about their opportunity. They're excited for a chance to play a team like Penn State at Penn State. That's going to be a whole lot of fun. The obvious implications that follow if you beat them, is being able to advance and do something that this squad hasn't done. So, I really trust our leadership. It's a great opportunity against a great team and I'm sure Penn State feels the same way. It's going to be a fantastic matchup for everybody tomorrow.
Carlie Needles, Florida #4 Guard:
Q: With that size, how do you think your speed matches up with that team?
A: Something that we've known all year is that we're smaller than everybody else. We're a team that likes to play in transition so that's a flaw for teams that are bigger. They can't really play as much in transition as we do. We're going to try to use that to our advantage like we have all year. Just playing help side and forcing them to do things they are not comfortable with because sometimes playing someone who is smaller than you is more comfortable than playing someone who is the same size.
Q: How are you guys embracing the challenge of playing on Penn State's home floor with this opportunity to go to the Sweet Sixteen?
A: Playing in the NCAA Tournament is already an opportunity, but being able to play a team on their home floor in the NCAA to go to the Sweet Sixteen is a huge opportunity for us and we are excited for that challenge. It's going to be a hostile environment in here. It's always hostile when you go to play someone else on their home court but we're excited for it. Who doesn't love to play in front of a bunch of crazy fans? We're excited for that and don't see it as a disadvantage for us. We're just excited and ready to take on whatever the crowd gives us tomorrow night.
Q: What's the basketball atmosphere like on campus for both teams?
A: It's awesome. Gator fans and Gator nation are so supportive. Everyone is just really excited for us. I'm glad that both of us have the opportunity to keep playing right now in March because a lot of people are at home dwelling on their season and the things that they could of and should of done to still be playing right now. Everyone is really excited for us and our band is cheering us on and they are excited for us. It's awesome. That's the reason why we chose to come to Florida and to play for Florida. It's because of the fans and the following that we get here so it's a great experience and great atmosphere in Gainesville [Florida].
Kayla Lewis, Florida #22 Guard:
Q: What was it like when you saw Penn State yesterday? Does Penn State compare with anyone that you see in the SEC?
A: It wasn't the first time that we got to see Penn State play. We got to see them play in the Bahamas so it was good to see them again because teams change from November to March. It's good to see a team play but it's different when you play against them. When you play them you get to see the emotional and intangible things that you don't see on film. As far as comparable to the SEC, they have a lot of size like the SEC has, such as big teams like Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina who have those 6-3/6-4 kids down low, so we have seen it before.
Q: You mentioned that you saw them in the Bahamas. How much have they changed since you've seen them?
A: We as players haven't seen them play as much as Coach Butler and our other coaching staff watching them throughout multiple games during the conference season. You have some things that aren't going to change about a team, like they aren't going to get smaller or bigger. Maggie Lucas is still going to be a great scorer. You have players like [Dara] Taylor who is still going to be clicking. So the things that are big themes haven't changed on their team but people's roles definitely changed. Yesterday, I know that #5 [Talia] East had a really big game, her first double-double of her career so things like that you have to take mention of from November to March.
Q: To go along with getting experience, how has playing in the SEC and going against their crowds prepared you for this opportunity?
A: I think definitely playing in the SEC playing teams that have great crowds like Kentucky, like Tennessee, like South Carolina who have great crowds has really prepared us for something like this. I think that as a team we have overcome so much and had so many challenges that having a big crowd is one of those things that we smile at and say, "Let's do it. What else you got?" I think that's the attitude our team has had all season so we're excited.